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G.R. No. L-66866 transfer of homestead rights in favor of Minda de Porkan.

transfer of homestead rights in favor of Minda de Porkan. This was approved, and, likewise ordered that
the Homestead Application No. V-76456 of Sadin Maraug be recorded in the name of the transferee,
ESTARES, REGISTER OF DEEDS OF DAVAO DEL NORTE and the INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE Minda de Porkan thereafter filed her Homestead Application No. V-76456. She was issued Homestead
COURT [Fourth Civil Cases Division]. Patent No. 135029 approved by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. On March 17,
1972 she was issued original Certificate of Title. No. P-10095 over Lot No 1546.
After six years from the issuance of the homestead patent, Minda de Porkan conveyed 80,000 sq.
FACTS: meters of Lot No. 1546 to Gorgonio S. Bermudez who secured his Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-
23598 on September 26, 1977. Transfer Certificate No. T-23599 was issued in the name of Minda de
Porkan for the remaining 72,406 sq. meters.
The family of Sadin de Porkan, father of Medori and Macampon de Porkan, had been in actual
possession as owner since the Spanish colonial period of a tract of land (in Davao del Norte) planted
with coconuts. Meanwhile, Mrs. Viola C. Azurin of Davao City, obtained from the then Philippine Fisheries Commission
an Ordinary Fishpond Permit No. F-5551-V covering an area of 20 hectares situated at Davao del
Norte, described and indicated in the sketch on the sheet attached to permit. The permit will expire on
During the Tagum Cadastral Survey (1937) this tract of land, Identified as Lots Nos. 1099 and 1546
December 31, 1966 or at an earlier date as provided.
were respectively allocated to Medori and Macampon de Porkan, the predecessors-in-interest of herein
private respondents.
Thereafter, Viola C. Azurin had the area surveyed and found out that her fishpond permit actually
covered 33.6586 hectares, and not 20.0 hectares. Her hired geodetic engineer submitted for approval
Sixteen years after the Tagum Cadastral Survey, Medori de Porkan filed her Free Patent Application No.
by the Director of Lands the allegedly corrected plan of the land [fishpond] but the same was not
V-27162 over Lot No. 1099 containing an area of 16.2983 hectares. The following day, the Junior Public
Lands Inspector, submitted a final investigation report recommending that the patent be granted. The
report was subsequently endorsed for approval to the Director of Lands.
On January 17, 1968, the spouses Condi Mama and Cadingaga Mora, both native Muslims of Davao
del Norte, sold to Viola C. Azurin, their rights and interests over all the nipa plants and improvements in
Fifteen years after, Medori de Porkan relinquished her rights and interests over Lot No. 1099 to her
the parcel of land covered by Viola C. Azurin's Fishpond Permit No. F-5551-V for and in consideration of
daughter, Lolita Macatindog, who thereafter filed her own free patent application. The Free Patent
Application of Medori de Porkan was thereafter ordered transferred to, recorded and given due course
in the name of Lolita Macatindog.
On March 1, 1968, Viola C. Azurin filed with the Bureau of Lands a sales application over an agricultural
land to be used solely for agricultural purposes, containing an area of 33.6586 hectares situated at
On May 27, 1971, the Director of Lands approved the Free Patent Application of Lolita Macatindog and
Davao del Norte, for which purpose she stated that she would invest the sum of P20,000.00. Prior to the
ordered that the said application be entered in the records of the Bureau of Lands as Free Patent Entry
said sales application, she asked the Director of Lands, to survey the 33.6586 hectares allegedly
No. 431343 and that the corresponding Free Patent be issued in her favor over Lot No. 1099. She was
covered by her sales application, but she agreed that she would take only such title as may be issued to
issued Original Certificate of Title No. P-9742 over said Lot No. 1099.
her by the Director of Lands irrespective of the result of the survey of the area which was allegedly
occupied by her under Ordinary Fishpond Permit No. F-5551-V.
After seven years from the issuance of the Free Patent, Lolita Macatindog conveyed 60,000 sq. meters
of said Lot No. 1099 to Juan Arangali who secured Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-25142 over said
The sales application of Viola C. Azurin over the alleged 33.6586 hectares was not approved by the
area. Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-25143 was issued for the remaining 102,983 sq. meters in the
Director of Lands.
name of Lolita Macatindog.

On April 24, 1969, Viola C. Azurin filed Fishpond Application No. 27257 over 13.6586 hectares allegedly
On the other hand, Macampon de Porkan died before he could file any application and improve Lot No. representing the excess area over the 20 hectares under her Fishpond Permit No. F-5551-V. Before her
1546 containing an area of 15.2406 hectares allocated to him. In his stead, Sadin Maraug filed the application over the said 13.6586 hectares was filed, a certain Moonyeen Rodriguez-Beleno filed a
Homestead Application No. V-76456. Sadin Maraug's homestead application was subsequently protest with the Philippine Fisheries Commission against Viola Azurin's fishpond permit claiming that the
approved and recorded as Homestead Entry No. V-68302 by the Director of Lands. latter had not improved the area under her permit; that it was she [Beleno] who was in actual
possession and occupation of the area and who had introduced improvements thereon, and that she
Seventeen years after the approval of his homestead application, Sadin Maraug sought authority from entered the area in good faith since the area was heavily forested with mangroves.
the Director of Lands to transfer his rights over Lot No. 1546, and on June 8, 1971, he executed a
The Philippine Fisheries Commission directed an investigation to verify the allegations of Moonyeen The Solicitor General claimed that the disputed portions were actually claimed, occupied and developed
Rodriguez-Beleno. by Viola C. Azurin, which portion the Director of Lands could not dispose of under the Public Land
Act hence, the patents and titles issued to Minda de Porkan and Lolita Macatindog and all derivative
Moonyeen R. Beleno filed Fishpond Application No. 27649 over 35.5 hectares stated to represent the titles issued to their successors-in-interest are null and void insofar as that portion occupied and
20 hectares under Viola C. Azurin's Fishpond Permit No. F-5551-V and the 13.5 hectares excess of said covered by the fishpond permit of Viola C. Azurin.
Minda de Porkan, et al. in Civil Case No. 1247 and Lolita Macatindog in Civil Case No. 1248 similarly
Philippine Fisheries Commissioner ordered the Regional Director at Davao City to investigate the claimed in their separate answers that they were the ones who first protested, along with their Muslim
conflict of fishpond applications. relatives, the intrusion of the families of the Azurins, Rodriguezes, and Belenos into their "ancestral
lands," which from time immemorial had been occupied and cultivated by their ancestors and
On January 10, 1978, the Director of Fisheries issued an order resolving the conflict of the fishpond
applications between Viola C. Azurin [FPA No. 27257] and Moonyeen R. Beleno [FPA No. 27649] over
13.6586 hectares which, for the purpose of Identifying the disputed land involved in the instant case After a joint hearing, the CFI Davao del Norte dismissed the complaints for cancellation of titles and
upholding the validity of the patents/titles of Lolita Macatindog and Minda de Porkan, as well as the titles
of their transferees co-defendants Juan Arangali and Gorgonio Bermudez, who were adjudged to be
The Director of Fisheries gave due course to the Fishpond Application No. 27649 of Moonyeen R. innocent purchasers for value and in good faith.
Beleno over Parcel II covering 11.7869 hectares. This was appealed by Viola C. Azurin to the Minister of
Natural Resources.
The Solicitor General appealed to CA.

CA affirmed the decision of the lower court.

While the fishpond conflict case was pending investigation by the Philippine Fisheries Commission
SolGen filed a petition for certiorari to SC.
[Davao City], Viola C. Azurin filed with the Bureau of Lands a complaint for the correction, amendment
or cancellation of Homestead Patent No. 135029 of Minda de Porkan over Lot No. 1546 and Free
Patent No. 488112 of Lolita Macatindog over Lot No. 1099, alleging that the patentees secured their In the meantime, the Minister of Natural Resources rejected the Fishpond Application No. 27649 of
patents and titles through fraud, misrepresentation and illegal machinations, after which a relocation Moonyeen R. Beleno, and declaring, among others, that the Ordinary Fishpond Permit No. F-5551-V of
survey of their lots was made, and Minda de Porkan forcibly entered the northeastern portion of her Viola C. Azurin should cover Parcels I, II and III subject to the final resolution by competent authorities
[Azurin] landholding while Lolita Macatindog likewise forcibly entered the southeastern portion of the of the adverse claims of certain Muslim occupants over Parcel III.
same landholding.
After an investigation, the Acting Assistant District Land Officer recommended that a petition be filed in
the proper court for the amendment of Homestead Patent No. 135029 of Minda de Porkan over Lot No. 1. Whether the lots are alienable or open to disposition as public agricultural lands, under Section
1546, Cad 276 and Free Patent No. 488112 of Lolita Macatindog over Lot No. 1099, Cad 276 in order to 11, CA 141 thru homestead or free patent.
exclude therefrom the portion of around seven [7] hectares of Viola C. Azurin.
2. Whether the predecessors-in-interest of private respondents had acquired valid and registrable
On April 11, 1980, the Republic of the Philippines, represented by the Director of Lands, thru the titles by virtue of a grant by the State under the Public Land Act.
Solicitor General, filed two [2] separate complaints with the then Court of First Instance of Davao del
Norte, seeking the cancellation in Civil Case No. 1247 of Homestead Patent No. 135029 of Minda de
3. Whether the fishpond claim of Azurin over the excess area of her fishpond under her Fishpond
Porkan and its derivative titles, TCT No. T-23598 and T-23599, in the names of Minda de Porkan and
Permit has attained the character of a final grant from the Government as would warrant the
spouses Gorgonio S. Bermudez and Benecita Duluan Bermudez insofar as the portion covered by the
exclusion of the same from the respondents lot.
Ordinary Fishpond Permit No. F-5551-V of Viola C. Azurin, with an area of 3.9 hectares, more or less
[subject to the result of a final survey] was concerned; and the cancellation in Civil Case No. 1248 of
Free Patent No. V-488112 and OCT No. P-8742 in the name of Lolita Macatindog and its derivative FIRST ISSUE: YES.
titles, TCT Nos. T-25143 and T-25142 in the names of Lolita Macatindog and the spouses Juan Arangali
and Antonina Estares, respectively, insofar as the portion covered by Fishpond Permit No. F-5551-V of Yes. Since the disputed tract of public land is neither timber nor mineral lands, the same is alienable or
Viola C. Azurin, with an area of seven [7] hectares, more or less [subject to the result of a final survey] open to disposition as public agricultural lands, under Section 11, C.A. 141 thru homestead settlement
was concerned. or free patent. The lots, although public land and unregistered land, the tract of public land was then
possessed, occupied, developed and planted to coconuts by the family of de Porkan and his
predecessors-in-interest, by virtue of its being part of the unregistered lands, was included in the Tagum
Cadastral Survey and formed part of the disposable or alienable agricultural lands of the public domain over Lot No. 1546 which was deemed vested on her predecessor-in-interest, Sadin Maraug, as early as
referred to under Section 6, par. [a] in relation to Section 9, par. [a] of the Public Land Act [C.A. 141, as 1954, by filing her homestead application on June 8, 1971.
In both parcels of land, the application for confirmation is a mere formality, the lack of which does
The nature and character of said tract of public land, more particularly Lot No. 1099, as one found not affect the legal sufficiency of the title as would be evidenced by the patent and the Torrens Title to
inside an agricultural zone, and that of Lot No. 1546, as one suitable for rice cultivation, which were be issued upon the strength of said patent.
categorically stated in the separate investigation reports of the Bureau of Lands is binding on the courts
inasmuch as it is the exclusive prerogative of the Executive Department of the Government to classify There is therefore no equitable justification for the Director of Lands to divest private respondents of
public lands. The classification is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to be their titles by claiming, after 19 years, that the lots in question remain public lands because the same
descriptive of what the land actually looks like. are swampy and marshy in nature subject to lease only under Chapter IX of the Public Land Act, and on
a mere technical objection that Minda de Porkan is disqualified to apply for a homestead patent
SECOND ISSUE: Yes. because she is married. As clearly found by the trial court, Azurin entered the 20-hectare fishpond in
1966 and, admittedly, she excavated and constructed dikes in the disputed portion she assertively
The predecessors-in-interest, as early as 1953, had already acquired by operation of law not only a believed to be within her 20-hectare fishpond permit. The conversion of the disputed portion into a
right to a grant over the lot, but also a grant of the Government over the same alienable land by fishpond will not change the agricultural nature of the land subject to disposition by the Bureau
virtue of their proven, open, exclusive and undisputed possession for more than 30 years since the of Lands as alienable lands of the public domain in accordance with the State policy of land for
Spanish colonial period. the landless; and more importantly in line with the amendments introduced by Republic Act No. 3872
[June 18, 1964] to the Public Land Act intended to benefit the members of the national cultural
minorities. In fact, the original registered owners of Lot No. 1099 and Lot No. 1546 were issued their
The possession of a public land later by de Porkans predecessors-in-interest, dates back to the time of respective patents pursuant to the 1971 land Patent Drive for Cultural Minorities signed by Vicente A.
the Spanish colonial period, such possession of the said tract of public land has attained the Valdellon.
character and duration prescribed by law as the equivalent of an express grant from the
Government. The mandate of the law itself is that the possessors shall be conclusively presumed to
have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate Inasmuch as the lots ceased to be part of the public domain as early as 1953 and 1954, respectively,
of title and by legal fiction, the land ceases to be public and thus becomes private land. In Susi vs. there is no need to dwell on the allegations of fraud advanced by the Solicitor General in the issuance of
Razon, supra, it is not necessary that a certificate of title should be issued in order that said the patents of Macatindog and de Porkan whose titles to the lots in question become vested by
grant may be sustained by the courts, an application therefor being sufficient. operation of law and by the equitable application of doctrinal jurisprudence on the land dispute in the
instant case.
As regards the homestead patent over Lot No. 1546, when a homesteader has complied with all the
terms and conditions which entitle him to a patent for a particular tract of public land, he acquires a THIRD ISSUE: No.
vested interest therein, and is to be regarded as the equitable owner thereof, and once the right to a
patent has become vested in a purchaser of public lands, it is equivalent to a patent actually issued, Azurin has not sufficiently established her right to a grant by the Government under any of the modes of
sustains, the conclusion of the trial court that a tract of public land later Identified as Lot No. dispossession or concession of public lands authorized under the Public Land Act or any special law
1546 ceased to be part of the public domain and became private land over which the Director of governing her alleged fishpond claim over the disputed lots. The inaction, if not disapproval, of her land
Lands is divested of control and possession when the homestead application was approved and claims over the disputed lots, thru applications separate and distinct from each other, by the concerned
recorded as on 1954 which was later confirmed by the approval of the transfer of homestead rights in administrative agencies of the Government renders untenable the Solicitor Generals contention that in
favor of de Porkan. The Court stated in Balboa vs. Farrales, supra, the event Lot No. 1099 and Lot No, 1546 are finally reverted to the State, the said 13.6586 hectares
should be excluded from the reversion in favor of the fishpond claim of Azurin under her Fishpond
A perfected valid appropriation of public lands operates as a withdrawal of the tract from the body of Permit.
the public domain and, so long as such appropriation remains valid and subsisting, the land covered
thereby is deemed private property. A perfected homestead under the law, is property in the highest The Fishpond Permit of ViAzurin had technically expired on December 31, 1966. Obviously, recognizing
sense, which may be sold and conveyed and will pass by descent. Even without a patent a perfected the extent and limits of her occupation, use and possession of the fishpond area, she filed the said
homestead is a property right in the fullest sense, unaffected by the fact that the paramount title to the sales application over the same area on March 1, 1968, but said application was not approved.
land is in the Government. Such land may be conveyed or inherited.
Considering that Azurin was not able to legitimize her claim over the disputed portion, there is then no
In that sense, there is then no legal obstacle for de Macatindog, successor-in-interest of de Porkan, to justifiable reason for the Director of Lands to divest Macatindog and de Porkan and their successors-in-
complete the imperfect or incomplete title of her predecessor-in-interest over Lot No. 1099 by means of interest of their titles, which had long been vested on their predecessors-in-interest.
confirmation of imperfect or incomplete title by administrative legalization [free patent] under Section 11
and Section 44 of the Public Land Act, as amended by R.A. 3872 [June 18, 1964] which she did when
she filed her free patent application on November 14, 1968; and for Minda de Porkan to confirm her title